Friday, April 17, 2015

Little Church that Could…

It’s been awhile since my last building project update. We have news…that I’m going to call good. But I’ll be honest, it took days, nerves and hair pulling sessions to believe that!

When our congregation voted to move forward on this partnership deepening project with Yellow Brick Road childcare, we said we’d seek a loan in the $500,000-$550,000 range. We believed that feasible and achievable given the design and comments from our architectural firm. Thus, we asked for donations for the required down payment.

Guess what? We’re currently at $45,000, with a realistic path to get to achieve $50,000. Bravo! For a church our size to raise that amount in just a few weeks is amazing. Thanks be to God, and your big, generous hearts!

However, when we voted, we told you that we’d put the design to a new round of competitive bidding because we’d had to tweak it to lower costs. The architect believed that our modifications, simplifications, and willingness to simply build a shell of a new kitchen (to be completed by YBR/PCCC work over the winter/spring) was sufficient. It wasn’t. The best bid we got was $677,000.

I learned that just before Holy Week, which was then spent in frantic, sometimes heated conversation with our design firm, YBR, builders and our church’s building team. Given the project’s full costs (contractors bid, design firm, closing fees), our original plan wouldn’t work. YBR couldn’t afford the financing costs that bid required. Plus, it was well above what was said at the congregational meeting. So we conversed with the General Contractor about possible reductions. Here’s the only viable option we’ve discerned: PCCC and YBR acting as our own General Contractor.

If we did that, the architectural firm would remain engaged throughout, of course. The GC who originally bid would, for a much-reduced fee, arrange sub-contractors, design a construction schedule and be available for problem solving if(when!) issues arise. But day-to-day oversight, contacting sub-contractors, etc., would be ours. YBR’s owner has offered to do most of that, along with tapping her extensive professional and personal relationships to get reduced-cost materials/labor. I’d work with her and the city, while PCCC leaders with relevant experience would assist on oversight and communication.

Doing that gets us most of the way there. The remaining cost reductions would come from us and YBR putting “sweat equity” into the project. That means doing much finishing work ourselves- painting, flooring, demolition. The complex stuff of plumbing, framing, etc., would still be sub-contracted to professionals. Our insurance agent tells us that’s viable from a liability perspective. Indeed, he says he works with many churches who’ve done this successfully. We’re not a large church, and so couldn’t reasonably attempt that ourselves. But we’re not by ourselves. YBR, its network, even some parents would pitch in, if we also agree to do our best. Expect several fun and sweaty summer work days!

Which gets partly at why I now consider this good news. Certainly, it sounds daunting! But we’ve talked for years about building relationships with childcare families and friends. What better way to spark that than working together?! Some will paint. Others will arrange food. Some will buy carpets. Others will play with kids. But if we’re all all-in, we’ll build more than a building. We’ll build a bigger, broader, more loving and committed community.

And ultimately, that’s why any congregation should use any money, time, or sweat on building construction. Walls and finishings only facilitate the holy, wonderful work of spreading and deepening Love. I’m not saying this path lacks risk. Quite the opposite! I can’t promise we’ll do it right, on time, without hurt hands or feelings when challenges arise. That’s why church leadership seriously debated about whether to proceed. Indeed, they consider it imprudent to commit until we share with you how the plan shifted, what it’ll take to complete, and mostly, ask whether you’ll play a role.

If you can paint (or ask kids/grandkids to help!), will you? If you can’t, can we count on you to pitch in otherwise? If so, then we’ve got a full summer ahead, difficult and risky, certainly, perhaps beyond what outsiders would deem possible. But since when have we ever been otherwise than the little church that- with God’s help- could?!

Please let me and/or Donna Jarvi know your feedback A.S.A.P. And plan to attend a May 3 congregational meeting to discuss this and related issues further.

Grace and Peace,
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